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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 October 2007, 18:01 GMT 19:01 UK
Pay offer put to school helpers
Protestor holding a poster
Nipsa union members rejected a new pay offer
Unions say they will consult classroom assistants on the detail of an offer from the employers.

Thousands of special needs pupils had to stay home on Tuesday, as Nipsa members began a three-day strike.

The union said talks had not yet solved the issue, and it was disappointed no further money had been offered.

Employers said the talks were useful. Unions were last week offered a one-off 15m payment to compensate for a change in the way salaries are calculated.

They said that could mean 2,500 for each assistant. However, Nipsa said the offer did not go far enough.

The sticking point in the dispute is the change in the number of hours that assistants have to work to get a full salary.

Some of the unions involved admit that if classroom assistants are treated as a special case, other job sectors could take legal action claiming unequal treatment.

Schools closed

As the talks took place, some special schools were closed while many mainstream schools told parents to keep at home children who have assistants allocated to them.

Talks will continue on Wednesday, after which the unions will put the fine detail of the latest offer to their members.

One spokesman said he hoped the dispute could be over by Christmas, but at this stage, Nipsa is still planning an all-out strike from Monday.

Frank Bunting, from the Irish National Teachers' Organisation, said teachers needed to stand behind the classroom assistants and understand their difficulties.

"It is going to be very difficult in schools for teachers and principals trying to manage this sensitive situation," said the teaching union spokesman.

We hope that the powers that be get together and resolve this."

Maggie Taggart reports on the strike

School helpers to consider offer
28 Sep 07 |  Northern Ireland
Unions divided over school action
28 Sep 07 |  Northern Ireland
Classroom helpers picket schools
26 Sep 07 |  Northern Ireland
School helpers will go on strike
25 Sep 07 |  Northern Ireland
'No progress' in classroom talks
24 Sep 07 |  Northern Ireland

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